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Cardinal Pell not anti-Semitic but Dawkins is Humourless

April 10, 2012 – 10:13 pm104 Comments

By Anthony Frosh
In one of the highest profile episodes of the ABC’s Q&A program, evangelical atheist Professor Richard Dawkins debated Australia’s Cardinal George Pell.

The most entertaining aspect of the episode was watching Dawkins on several occasions bellow at the audience (whenever they laughed) “Why is that funny?!” As one rather witty aired tweet alluded to, this would be, along with the question of whether there exists a deity, one of the great scientific or philosophical questions that Dawkins would never be able to answer.

At rather one dramatic point, host Tony Jones tried to paint Pell as having said something anti-Semitic, an event that brought much joy to the face of Dawkins, as well as that of Jones.

TONY JONES: George Pell, can I just come back to you on this question of the existence of God. Why would God randomly decide to provide proof of his existence to a small group of Jews 2,000 years ago and not subsequently provide any proof after that?

GEORGE PELL: Well, I don’t think there’s ever been any scientific proof. I don’t believe God does anything randomly, although he might set up he might set up a system which works, apparently through, you know, through chance, through random but if you want something done, you’ve got to ask somebody. It’s no good, say, my asking everyone in the congregation will you would do something. Normally you go to a busy person because you know they’ll do it and so for some extraordinary reason God chose the Jews. They weren’t intellectually the equal of either the Egyptians or the…

TONY JONES: Intellectually?

GEORGE PELL: Intellectually, morally…

TONY JONES: How can you know intellectually?

GEORGE PELL: Because you see the fruits of their civilisation. Egypt was the great power for thousands of years before Christianity. Persia was a great power, Caldia. The poor – the little Jewish people, they were originally shepherds. They were stuck. They’re still stuck between these great powers.

TONY JONES: But that’s not a reflection of your intellectual capacity, is it, whether or not you’re a shepherd?

GEORGE PELL: Well, no it’s not but it is a recognition it is a reflection of your intellectual development, be it like many, many people are very, very clever and not highly intellectual but my point is…

TONY JONES: I’m sorry, can I just interrupt? Are you including Jesus in that, who was obviously Jewish and was of that community?


TONY JONES: So intellectually not up to it?

GEORGE PELL: Well, that’s a nice try, Tony. The people, in terms of sophistication, the psalms are remarkable. In terms of their buildings and that sort of thing, they don’t compare with the great powers. But Jesus came not as a philosopher to the elite. He came to the poor and the battlers and for some reason he choose a very difficult but actually they are now an intellectually elite because over the centuries they have been pushed out of every other form of work. They’re a – I mean Jesus, I think, is the greatest the son of God but, leaving that aside, the greatest man that ever live so I’ve got a great admiration for the Jews but we don’t need to exaggerate their contribution in their early days.

Leaving aside Tony Jones’ error regarding historical timeframes (2000 years??), it was wrong of him to try to imply Pell had smeared the Jewish people as an intellectually inferior people. It is a reasonable statement that from the point in history when the Hebrew patriarchs are believed to have lived right through to when the Exodus is believed to have happened, the Egyptians were a far more technologically advanced society than that of their Hebrew contemporaries.

As Pell clarified, intellectual capacity is not intellectual development. Our Hebrew ancestors were not less intelligent than their Egyptians contemporaries, but they were at an earlier stage of their development. The Egyptians had already reached their zenith as a civilisation, a civilisation that would soon be at its end, whereas Jewish civilisation was in its relative infancy.

In the above exchange, Pell could perhaps have been accused of having spoken clumsily, but in fairness to him, it probably wasn’t a topic he was expecting to have to speak about.

Other points of interest included Dawkins confusing atheism for agnosticism.

I live my life as though there is no God but any scientist of any sense will not say that they positively can disprove the existence of anything. I cannot disprove the existence of the Easter Bunny and so I am agnostic about the Easter Bunny. It’s in the same respect that I am agnostic about God.

In actuality, Dawkins is an avowed atheist who lives his life, like most of us, as an agnostic. After all, on the program, Dawkins, not without a modicum of pride, refers to explaining evolution as his “life’s work”. It seems contradictory to have pride in a “life’s work” if one is really operating with the understanding that all a human being amounts to is a complex set of atoms. (For more on this reasoning, see here).

As for the Cardinal, he likely disappointed many critics and followers alike who have a simplistic understanding of religious belief when he stated he believes that human beings have evolved from primate ancestors. Pell made the mistake of saying humans had evolved from Neanderthals, when orthodox scientific theory in fact places Neanderthals on a side branch from Homo Sapiens, both species having had a common ancestor. Instead of graciously accepting that Pell was not rejecting evolutionary theory as Dawkins would have posited, Dawkins instead rudely tried to embarrass Pell for having the details wrong. This from a man who routinely misunderstands the religious beliefs of those he belittles.

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  • Eli says:

    I like your description of Dawkins as an evangelical atheist . That has nice cruel twist to it.

  • Ittay says:

    Whilst this episode must have been great for ABC ratings. I really wish they hadn’t chosen such extremists to represent Religion and Atheism. I agree with Frosh that both really did not understand the philosophy of the other in any meaningful way.

    If the goal of Q&A was to educate rather than to agitate, they would have chosen Alain de Botton to represent Athiesm, with religion being represented by Karen Armstrong.

  • frosh says:

    Ittay, I agree that it was set up to draw and entertain an audience rather than to enlighten an audience.

    I think Alain de Botton does a far better job of ‘representing atheism’ (or at least what passes for atheism) than does Dawkins.

    If they would have had all four of those guests on the panel, they could have achieved high ratings and entertainment as well as had a more educational discussion.

  • Seraphya says:

    I think Pell also slipped up and looked antisemitic when talking about German suffering as the worst in history.

    He also was expecting people not to pay enough attention to remember what he was said in the previous sentence for instance arguing that Hitler must suffer therefore hell exists and then the next second saying that he hopes no one goes to hell and if they do then it is really just like having the sun in your eyes when you wake up.

    As for Dawkins getting upset over Humans and Neanderthals, I think he can’t just let that slide. It would be like Dawkins talking pell about how Pell believes in Sharia law or the Shulchan Aruch or in four gods that are one. The record of fact needed to be set straight and it shows on Pells part a serious gap in terms of knowledge whether you accept it or believe it. Pell was just not the right face of religion, especailly in his answer to why god is believable but anthropogenic climate change is not.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Seraphya,

    I don’t share Pell’s theology, even in the general sense.

    I was also troubled by Pell’s mention of great German suffering during WWII, and I think he was again very clumsy in his speech.
    However, after I read the transcript, I think was Pell was trying to say was that the Germans were punished by God (via secondary forces) for the sins of Nazism. He was trying to make the argument that, under his theology at least, God still does interfere in the world. That is, God, via what he terms secondary forces, saved the Jews during WWII and punished the Germans.

    Dawkins was right to correct Pell regarding Neanderthals, but he did it in an unnecessarily rude way. I don’t think the details of human evolution were relevant to the discussion. The point was that Pell accepts humans evolved from primate ancestors. The fact that Pell doesn’t know his Homo neanderthalensis from his Homo erectus tautavelensis is neither here nor there.

  • Ilana L says:

    When I mentioned in a different forum to Ant that I felt Pell came across as anti-semitic on last nights Q & A, I was referring to the exchange you mentioned, but also to the following exchange regarding the holocaust (taken from ABC transcript):

    TONY JONES: But he chose to intervene at different times in history to save the Jews when they were going over the River Jordan. I mean there are many times when, apparently, God has intervened in biblical times. Why not now?

    GEORGE PELL: Well, that’s I think revelation is complete. That’s a mighty question. He helped probably through secondary causes for the Jews to escape and continue. It is interesting through these secondary causes probably no people in history have been punished the way the Germans were. It is a terrible mystery.

    TONY JONES: There would be a very strong argument saying that the Jews of Europe suffered worse than the Germans.

    GEORGE PELL: Yes, that might be right. Certainly the suffering in both I mean the Jews there was no reason why they should suffer.

    – Pell paused and seemed confused in his response. Again, perhaps Tony misunderstood his remark concerning suffering of the Germans. Perhaps Pell was suggesting in his original remark that through a non-random act of intervention from above (“secondary causes”), justice was served because some small number of Jews escaped and the Germans also suffered heavily in WWII. Perhaps he wasn’t suggesting, as Tony took it, that the Germans suffered more than the Jews. If the former was his intended meaning, it is not anti-semitic, but the suggestion that any secondary causes intervened in the holocaust sufficiently to bring about justice doesn’t sit well. Does his response ignore or trivialise the millions who perished in the holocaust that did not benefit from the secondary causes intervention? I am sure Pell would have more to say on this question if he had time (or I had time to read more on the subject…)

    Otherwise, I thought Dawkins should have spent more time imparting his wisdom on the topic of evolutionary biology on a lay audience, rather than sniggering at Pell. When the audience laughed at Pell’s “preparing some boys” remark, Dawkins smirked, which I found immature and disrespectful.

  • Ilana L says:

    Hi Ant – I posted just after you but see we had the same reading of the German suffering vs Jew suffering scenario. (as I said, his answer is inadequate for my own purposes, but that’s not a reflection on his meaning). Its not good that we both had to re-read the transcript to understand what he was saying.

    Also, I was confused about the soul stuff. Watching the show, it seemed at the time as though Pell first suggested that the soul arose with the first human, and then switched to saying animals had souls (principles of life). Again, I had to re-read the transcript. He was consistent in saying all living things have souls, but humans have a soul capable of communicating etc. So the whole discussion about humans descending from neanderthals was irrelevant (obiter?) anyway, because Pell thinks all living beings have souls (not only the first human).

    GEORGE PELL: Yes. That is fascinating because most evolutionary biologists today believe that the animal world is developing accord to go patterns which we’re starting to know more and more about them.

    Oh – also, my final rant, to me, Pell clearly believes in intelligent design despite his denial:

    GEORGE PELL: Yes. That is fascinating because most evolutionary biologists today believe that the animal world is developing accord to patterns which we’re starting to know more and more about them.
    TONY JONES: Are you referring to intelligent design?
    GEORGE PELL: No, I’m not. I’m leaving that right to one side.
    TONY JONES: Do you believe in intelligent design? Or that there is an intelligent designer?
    GEORGE PELL: I believe God is intelligent.
    TONY JONES: No but it’s obviously a loaded question but do you believe in intelligent design and an intelligent designer?
    GEORGE PELL: It all depends what you mean. I believe God created the world. I am not entirely sure how it works out scientifically

    If Pell is not sure how “it works out scientifically”, then why bring up subject of the animal kingdom developing according to patterns. The presence of patterns in nature is a very scientific concept.

  • Steve Lieblich says:

    On reading the transcript it appears to me that Pell was referring to “intellectualism” as measured by empires, buildings and engineering achievemts.
    The best response, if any response is needed at all, was given (in advance) by Ezer Weizman in his famous address to the German parliament in 1996:
    “…Ladies and gentlemen, we are a people of memory and prayer. We are a people of words and hope. We have neither established empires nor built castles and palaces. We have only placed words on top of each other. We have fashioned ideas; we have built memorials. We have dreamed towers of yearnings — of Jerusalem rebuilt, of Jerusalem united, of a peace that will be swiftly and speedily established in our days. Amen.”

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Actually Frosh, it is entirely you who does not understand that atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive. You have displayed this ignorance before, and it saddens me that you are unable to learn basic definitions, so I’ll try to explain it succinctly for you now:

    An agnostic atheist is somebody who doesn’t believe in god (atheist) but cannot know for sure if there is one, and so doesn’t make a conclusive statement that there is no god (agnosticism).

    That is to say, you are entirely able to not believe in god without saying definitively that god does not exist. That is the only way for any self-respecting rationalist to view the issue.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Also, definitely loving the use of “evangelical” to try to paint Dawkins as religious.

    We rationalists have the thankless task of attempting to keep you religious nuts from brainwashing children and oppressing minorities.

    There would be no “evangelical” atheists if religion didn’t have such an insidious grasp on the vulnerable that exploits them at every turn. Stop living a fairytale, start living in the real world. Faith is not a virtue, it’s a primitive relic of our animalistic origins that we ought to do away with ASAP.

    You’re on the wrong side of history, and you will be laughed at by your descendants for your idiocy. Much like we laugh at the people who believed in witchcraft and leprechauns, you too will soon be a historical joke.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Ilana,
    I tend to agree with almost everything you have written here. On the point of Pell’s belief (or anyone else’s for that matter) in Intelligent Design, I don’t think it’s relevant. What is relevant is if one thinks Intelligent Design belongs in the science class room. That should have been the question that Jones asked.

    I’d just point out for the readership, in case they are confused, that Ilana L is a different person from another frequent commenter on Galus (with the same given name and surname initial, only typically commenting with her full surname).

    Again, I am in agreement with what you have written. Furthermore, the building of enormous towers and pyramids is often associated with idolatrous cultures or at least idolatrous sentiments. This may even be one of the messages in the mysterious story of the Tower of Babel.
    However, I don’t think Pell was saying anything contradictory to what you have written.

  • frosh says:


    I see you are still unable to grasp the concept of stated belief vs. how one actually operates.
    Oh, and no atheistic regime ever oppressed minorities, did it?

    Your own comment here proves that you are evangelical. Instead of leaving people to their own beliefs, you feel the need to zealously come on this forum and bellow at them.

    I’ve also note in the past that you have Dawkins’ same incredible inability to interpret even the most obvious comedic material as comedy. Life can’t be easy for you.

    One might think you and Dawkins are the same person, except that you have somehow managed to have even worse manners than Dawkins.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Frosh, you state unequivocally that Dawkins confuses atheism with agnosticism. He does not.

    He does not know if there is a god or not, and in the absence of not knowing, he refuses to guess.

    You live your life as an atheist, too, Frosh. You are an atheist to every god but the one you worship. You have made your haphazard, ill-considered guess of the Judeo-Christian god. 1 god out of the (literally) thousands you could have picked. You are atheistic to all of them but that one.

    Dawkins refuses to make that guess. And in the absence of making that guess, that does not make him a gnostic atheist as you so stupidly seem to think it does.

    And yes, I do tell people when they’re being stupid. Why? Because if more people held others accountable for their idiocy, we’d be far more advanced as a society.

    You ignorantly state “[Eds: Comment removed – this is positioned as a direct quote but you have made it up]”

    You have to be the most blinkered fool to think that genocide has ever been waged in the name of atheism. If you bring up communism, that was merely another failed ideology which, ironically, Stalin tried to make a religion unto itself.

    Nazism was firmly rooted in Christianity and there are a litany of examples of Hitler using catholic doctrine to convince people to rise up against the jews. And you should know that.

    Hitler and Stalin both had moustaches. That means that all people with moustaches are genocidal maniacs????

    You just can’t resist logical fallacy.

    And that’s why I come at you to show you up for the fool that you are. Because people like you hold society back. You poison the minds of others with lies and fantasy. I know that there is an extremely high probability that this is the one life I get on this earth. And if it weren’t for fools such as yourself, humanity might be 1000 years more advanced scientifically, and I’d get a much longer time on this earth (perhaps even immortality as I am almost certain we will one day achieve it).

    That is if we don’t kill each other first over whose imaginary friend is cooler. You and your ignorance sicken me. I don’t find it funny, or humourous you are correct. There’s nothing funny about the damage people like you have done to this world. You are bad, and you should feel bad, too.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Frosh, thank you for linking me to what is arguably my finest piece of trolling in quite a while :)

    Was a good trip down memory lane.

    This, however, is no such exercise.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    ” “[Eds: Comment removed – this is positioned as a direct quote but you have made it up]””

    Wowwwwwwwww I exaggerated it so much, with like four question marks and full on caps lock and you really think it looked like anything other than paraphrasing?

    You know, for someone accusing others of being humourless, you sure are a sensitive fellow :)

    [Eds: It’s a basic convention that if you use quotation marks, it’s a direct quote. If you wish to paraphrase another commenter in your own childish words, do not use quotation marks].

  • Itzi​k says:

    It was an awkward encounter, and it’s easy to see why any defender of faith would be anxious faced with Dawkins/science, but perhaps Dawkins too was uncomfortable because of a lack of meaningful answers to moral questions..

  • Pell has now issued the following clarification, as published on Jwire:

    “On ABC1’s “Q & A” program on Monday night, I tried to make a point about the unique place of the Jewish people in human history as the first to receive the revelation of the one true God, while I was being regularly interrupted and distracted by the chairman.

    “Why did the Lord choose the Jewish people and lead them to a Promised Land between the greatest military and cultural powers of the era? Human thinking assumes that if something needs to be done, you go to the powerful. But God did not choose Egypt or any of the Eastern nations, Assyria, Chaldea or Persia, the great powers of the day. Instead he went to a people who at the time of Abraham, were nomads and shepherds, making them over time a great nation. “Historically” or “culturally” unequal might have been more appropriate than “intellectually”. My reference to “morally” was interrupted, but as I would never describe the Jewish people at any stage as morally inferior to their pagan neighbours, I was attempting to establish a counter poise to my earlier comment when interrupted.

    “I also made some remarks about the way the German people were punished for the Holocaust, which is a crime unique in history for the death and suffering it caused and its diabolical attempt to wipe out an entire people.

    “At the back of my mind I was thinking about an answer the Jewish writer David Berlinski gave to atheist Sam Harris on why God did not prevent the Holocaust. Referring to the incredible destruction and loss of life that the Allies inflicted on Germany in the course of the war which Germany started, Berlinski observed that ‘if God did not protect his chosen people precisely as Harris might have wished, He did, in an access of his old accustomed vigor, smite their enemies, with generations to come in mourning or obsessed by shame’.

    “This is not to deny the enormous sufferings that the Germans caused to the other peoples of Europe. But Berlinski’s thoughts point us to the mysterious ways in which great crimes are sometimes brought home to those who have committed them.

    “My commitment to friendship with the Jewish community, and my esteem for the Jewish faith is a matter of public record, and the last thing I would want to do is give offence to either. This was certainly not my intention, and I am sorry that these points which I tried to make on Q&A on Monday did not come out as I would have preferred in the course of the discussion.”

  • Anthony, Pell said: “…I’ve got a great admiration for the Jews but we don’t need to exaggerate their contribution in their early days…”
    This certainly suggests that he WAS saying that the philosohical genius of Abraham and the Jewish people in recognising the power of montheism and “love the other as yourself” as inferior to the mighty Egyptian, Persian and Roman Empires. He tries to make that acceptable by saying the Jews are NOW intellectually “elite” (but only re-inforcing the apparent opinion that they were inferior then…)

  • Helen Landau says:

    I want to comment about the following description of the Jewish people by George Pell that I believe was discriminatory and I haven’t seen any other mention of it yet.
    He said:
    “Because you see the fruits of their civilisation. Egypt was the great power for thousands of years before Christianity. Persia was a great power, Caldia. The poor – the little Jewish people, they were originally shepherds. They were stuck. They’re still stuck between these great powers.”

    What did Pell mean by “the little Jewish people” – did he mean little in size, little in number, of little importance. What was he referring to? I believe that his statement was condescending & discriminatory.

  • Reality Check says:

    Apart from his norrow view of intelligence, judging people 3500 years ago by todays standards and his ignorance about the Ten Commandments not being written by the Hand of G’d, what erked me most about George Pell on Q & A was the way he tried to appeal to the ignorumouses in the audience.

    Now Pell has an enormous amount of influence, and by resorting to mass reaction to argue his point did him no service. And to say he sees no evidence of climate change because of his experience living in Ballarat and to discredit overwhelming evidence by the experts says it all.

    He argues against science with obviously no knowledge of the subject: eg he suggested that the only force in nature was electromagnetism.

    His knowledge and understanding of physics was only equal to his understanding of biology and evolution, which was zero.

    But his patronization of Jews was the final scraw and I just turned him off.

  • Seraphya says:

    I don’t know why people keep mentioning that Nazism stems from Christianity, when it is much more accurate to say that much of Nazi theology is Neo-Pagan.

    As for whatever Pell meant via-a-vis antisemitism I think that reading the transcript can clear him of any blatant antisemitism but I think that he still views Jews from a slightly theological problematic pre-Vatican II type of non-aggressive antisemtism. I can’t point to anything, but i get that vibe.

  • Reality Check says:

    Seraphya, The Jews have always been a problem to Christians because we just won’t accept their saviour, and Pell is no different.

  • Reality Check says:

    And what’s more, when, friend of the Jews, Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the chirst, came out, Pell thought it was a great film that all Catholics should see – to reinforce their hatred of Jews.

  • TheSadducee says:

    The editors should consider removing Reality Check’s last post which suggests that George Pell encouraged Catholics to see a movie to reinforce their hatred of Jews – possibly defamatory and/or libellous statement about the leader of Australian Catholics.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I’m glad to see that Frosh and I concur on Pell.

    As I’ve suggested elsewhere, he is a Prince of the Church, thinks like one and expects others to defer to its full philosophical majesty. That is what he is trained in. He is coming out of a very different philosophical system (the Church having taken over Aristotle etc) that sees it self as the (improved) successor of Judaism. He’s also a pompous git, and he’s not into split second responses as demanded on TV. He and Dawkins just fed off each other.

  • frosh says:

    Hi Steve,

    We can interpret someone’s comments with a generosity of spirit and we can interpret it with a hypercritical ear (or anywhere in between).

    I interpreted Pell as saying that Jews have made such a great contribution, that there’s no need to exaggerate it by pretending, for example, that the earliest Hebrews made a significant contribution to engineering, astronomy, or hydrology etc.

  • TheSadducee says:


    Pell’s comments regarding “little” could fit into any of the criteria you suggest (size, number, importance) during the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman periods and are not then either discriminatory or condescending.

  • frosh says:


    I think the most obvious interpretation is “little in number.” Also, from the times of the Jewish patriarchs up until the Exodus at least (and through most of history), little in military might.

    “Little in number” remains true to this day (albeit because of countless acts of persecution and genocide carried out against the Jews). And as Pell said, we ARE still stuck between the larger (in number/size) nations.

    I fail to see how that’s condescending let alone “discriminatory”.

  • Marky says:

    “..you are the least of all the nations” Bamidbar 7:7

    Obvious (kepshuto)interpretation is little in number(Rashi). Other interpretations: humbleness(Rashi), power etc.

  • Marky says:

    Oops! I meant Devarim (Deuteronomy) 7:7

  • drew says:

    I couldn’t believe what I heard Pell say.

    So one can be a a gay atheist his entire life and still go to heaven!
    So what’s the point of his religion? Somehow I think he doesn’t believe that to be true. He was trying to be politically correct.

    Even a B-grade kiruv-type rabbi would’ve made a far better case for religion than did this prince of the church.

    And I hate to think what ex-Israeli religion-debater Rabbi Mizrachi would do to Pell in a face-to-face debate.

    see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fHhJGNZ5LA

  • Ilana L says:

    I am glad Pell clarified his stance.
    Regarding the WWII comment:
    “At the back of my mind I was thinking about an answer the Jewish writer David Berlinski gave to atheist Sam Harris on why God did not prevent the Holocaust. Referring to the incredible destruction and loss of life that the Allies inflicted on Germany in the course of the war which Germany started, Berlinski observed that ‘if God did not protect his chosen people precisely as Harris might have wished, He did, in an access of his old accustomed vigor, smite their enemies, with generations to come in mourning or obsessed by shame’.

    “This is not to deny the enormous sufferings that the Germans caused to the other peoples of Europe. But Berlinski’s thoughts point us to the mysterious ways in which great crimes are sometimes brought home to those who have committed them.”

    I am personally not much impressed by a higher power that seeks justice by punishing the crime of putting innocent Jewish women and children in gas chambers with the return crime of raping of German women (as done by Russian soldiers), or the indiscriminate killing of German civilians by allied bombs or other WMDs. Not saying the allied actions weren’t necessary to stop the war – they just dont give me any kind of comfort. But thats me! I wish religious leaders had a better answer to the holocaust question. Perhaps Pell simply doesn’t have a better (or more comforting) answer. Thats not his fault.

    Regarding intelligent design, well since Pell mentioned a higher power, and mentioned patterns in nature, I think he should just come out and say he believes in intelligent design (irrespective of whether it should be taught in the classroom). It is a relevant topic since perhaps he could separate the theological position on “patterns” in nature from the scientific one, so that the two perspectives could avoid overlap. Again, not sure if this separation is possible. From my understanding, the two positions do conflict, and simply should be taught in separate classrooms. (A topic for another thread no doubt).

    On the atheist/agnostic question, I accept Daniel Levy’s position, though as a reader, would prefer he stated this explanation concisely in the 4 required lines (I am time poor) and left out the vitriol.

  • Reality Check says:

    And Sadducee, what do you reckon Gibson’s film was all about? And since it was so danm obvious, Pell should not have promoted it, unless he wanted to show us Jews in the same bad light that motivated Christians, through the ages, to persecute us, especially during Easter.

  • letters in the age says:

    Ratings and shows like this has led to the dumbing down of the a.b.c

    The Drum and the constant stream of think tank people has denigrated the national broadcasters reputation

    Switch to other news sources to get a more balanced viewpoint with less extremism

    The abc’s own religion and ethics reporter is excellent!! Listen to rn drive with Waleed Aly

  • letters in the age says:

    Theres only one “Prince”that i would like to see in his full purple regalia and hes visiting us next month

    I would suggest that Mr Pell go and see a man that through his music and lyrics has combined sexuality and God with greater success than he could ever do within the institutionalized bastardry of his own church!!

  • The Simon Wiesenthal Center deplores the remarks of Cardinal George Pell …
    “We would remind the Cardinal that among the contributions of the “little’ Jews in the ancient world were the dignity of the individual, the value of freedom, equality of all before the law, and the belief in the certainty of a redeemed world of peace and tranquility,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, associate dean and Director of Interfaith Relations, respectively, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human Rights NGO.
    “Another contribution of our ancient people, small in number and enormous in their influence and contribution, was born to a Jewish family in Bethlehem. He was later called Jesus of Nazareth. The Cardinal might want to check on his own spiritual origins,” the rabbis added.
    “Finally, it would be appropriate for the Cardinal to specifically apologize to the survivors of the Holocaust and the thousands of Jewish families in Australia whose family members were among the 6 million Jewish victims of Nazi Germany’s genocidal regime,” Cooper and Adlerstein concluded.

  • letters in the age says:

    [Eds: Comment removed. If you want to post links irrelevant to the thread, but arguably relevant to the magazine in general, please use the general feedback section. This isn’t the first time we’ve told you this].

  • letters in the age says:

    What magazine?

    Just use that link i posted

    oh come on guys at least i share!!

    point noted;)

  • Robert Weil says:

    It seems that all the self-delusional do-gooders so immersed in “interfaith dialogue” with Muslims have taken their eye off the ball. Just when they thought the Catholics were under control, up pops Cardinal Pell to remind us that anti-semitism is still in the DNA of the church.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Robert, if you are the Robert who is the president of CHC, I draw your attention to the fact that the current senior rabbi of CHC is heavily involved in interfaith dialogue via the Council of Christians and Jews. I am sure that he would disagree with your simplistic take on the Cardinal’s comments and your outrageous suggestion that the church’s DNA has antisemitism built-in…

  • Yaakov says:

    “Greek: κατηχισμός from kata = “down” + echein = “to sound”, literally “to sound down” …, i.e. to indoctrinate) is a[n]… exposition of doctrine, traditionally used in Christian religious teaching from New Testament times to the present…. often in the form of questions followed by answers to be memorized,… which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted… with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life.

    Another translation is not to “sound down” but to “talk down”. But indoctrination is a good translation because catechisms are used to indoctrinate believers. Pell’s problem is that for once he was talking to unbelievers.

    I can’t imagine a group of Jews agreeing with a given set of answers (let’s leave my antipathy to some Chabadniks aside) let alone memorising them. We’d debate them, there would always be some who’d disagree to be davka, some of us would spit the dummy, leave the room and start another shul… Time and again, as feisty women catholics from Mary McKillop to Sinead O’Connor have found, buck the church and you get excommunicated, and you can’t just go and find your own new pope.

    Against that difference in our traditions, it is no wonder that we Jews find Pell hard to understand. If he isn’t used to being questioned by his own, and he was brought up b following his indoctrination, when would he possibly have learned to think?

  • Yaakov says:

    that last post managed to miss my first two lines which were
    Pell was trained in the art of the catechism and this helps in understanding his poor comments and sloppy thinking on Q&A. Catechism…

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Yaakov, not only do we memorise a set of answers but we actually sing them in Shul. Firstly there’s “Yigdal”, which is a poetic rendering of Maimonides’ 13 Principles – a Jewish catechism, if you like. Then there’s Adon Olam, which is conceptually similar. I would not be surprised if there are other prayers and piyyutim that were composed for their pedagogic effect.

  • Reality Check says:

    Harry, I agree with Robert, who ever he may be. Catholic Christians have always considered Jews as inferior. Pell’s idea about Jews being inferior in ancient times was just a Fraudian slip about him thinking that we are still inferior now. And what’s worst, Harry, is that Pell’s whole thinking about Jews being inferior smacks of him thinking of us as “filthy Jews”.

    And than there was that thing about the Germans suffering more than the Jews. No apology or clarification of that comment can be excused.

    One good thing, though, was that Pell demonstrated on Q&A that he is a complete ignoramus. Aguing with a Cambridge professor of biology about evolution, his comments about the electromagnetic force, as if it was the only force in nature and his ridiculous argument about climate change, based only on his experience in living in Ballarat. I mean, harry get real.

  • Robert Weil says:

    Firstly FYI our Rabbi is not involved with C.C.&J. and secondly I stand by my earlier comments.

  • letters in the age says:

    Ethnocentrism does not exist in the Jewish diaspora at all does it?

    food for thought

  • Seraphya says:

    Everyone knows that yigdal is just a nice poem about someone’s opinion of what Rambam meant which wasn’t even agreed upon as a basis of belief.

    For more info:


  • Marky says:

    Not much use posting a link which doesn’t tell you anything unless one buys the book!

    “Everyone knows…”??

  • Seraphya says:

    You can read about what the book says without buying the book, there is information about it there and on other websites.

    You want another book with a comment that explains things well?
    look at the second comment here: http://www.amazon.com/Without-Red-Strings-Holy-Water/dp/193623548X

    I think most educated Jews would know that piyutim aren’t binding on us in any way.

  • geoff bloch says:

    Hi Frosh,

    I watched Cardinal Pell for a few minutes quite by accident as I was looking for a news channel at the time. I turned him off once he exhibited his ignorance of scripture by suggesting that Moses wrote the Ten Commandments, whereas both sets of tablets were written by God, God having hewn the first set and Moses having hewn the second set. Strangely, I felt vicariously embarrassed for him.

    But perhaps in his favour (in my humble opinion), I was equally surprised that a leading religious personality should embrace the theory of evolution. This is rarely conceded (not least by our own Rabbis) and I often wonder why, especially as I believe that the Torah itself (in at least two places) recognises it, such recognition perhaps serving as proof of the divinity of the text, as I will endeavour to explain.

    On the fifth day of creation there is a reference to God having created the “tanninim hagedolim”. We know from elsewhere in scripture that “tannin” means “reptile”. On the fifth day God created giant reptiles! If that is not a reference to the dinosaurs, I don’t know what is.

    The science of palaeontology is but a few hundred years old, but even the most avowed atheist must concede that the Torah was written over three and a half thousand years ago. How on earth would the author have known about giant anythings appearing before man, let alone giant reptiles?! Unless, of course, the author created them!

    The other scriptural reference appears in this week’s parashah, Shmini, where the Torah discusses the two physical signs of a kosher animal. We all know a mammal must have cloven hooves and chew the cud. BOTH physical signs must be present. But then the Torah goes on to make a remarkable statement. Instead of stating nothing more or, at most, simply stating that animals having one sign but not the other are not kosher, the Torah actually names the four animals which have one of the signs but not the other (the camel, the rabbit and the hare are the 3 animals which chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves and the pig is the one animal that has cloven hooves but does not chew the cud).

    Not only is there no apparent need for the Torah to have made that statement, it was apparently taking a huge risk in doing so because the divinity of the text could have been challenged were there in fact other animals on the face of the earth having only one of the characteristics. At the time the Torah was given, large swathes of planet earth had not yet been discovered by the ancient world which received the Torah, for example, the Americas, Australia and the whole of the Pacific, Arctic and Antarctic regions. Imagine the thousands of animal species in those unknown regions. If only one additional animal could be found having only one of the signs, the divinity of the text could have been called into question. But no other such mammal exists anywhere on the planet.

    Perhaps we should reflect on the distinct possibility that the Torah was not taking a risk at all in naming the four animals because the author of the Torah knew full well that there were only 4 such animals on the planet. After all, He created them!

    If you look carefully at the text, you will see that for each of the 3 animals which chew the cud but do not have cloven hooves, the past, the present and the future tenses are used, respectively. I heard it said in the name of the late Yoev Kimelman z”l that this is the Torah’s way of saying that there never was, there is not now, and there never will be any fourth such animal. Does this not embrace the concept of evolution?

    Something for the Shabbat table!


  • Nice one Geoff (maybe the start of another article). If someone had told Yoev Kimelman OBM that he would one day be quoted on a Torah matter in an internet discussion about a debate between a priest and an atheist, how do you think he would’ve responded? I have now officially seen it all!

    As an aside, here’s another great Yoav quote (first hand): If ever someone starts a comment with the words “with all due respect”, they actually mean “with no respect at all”!

  • frosh says:

    Hi Geoff,

    I’m not knowledgeable enough about Catholic theology to know what they believe about the Tablets. I’m not even sure if their Decalogue has the same commandments as ours, so I’m not sure if Pell’s comment reflects a difference in theology, ignorance of the text, or just a misspeak.

    I agree with you both on the specific point regarding reptiles, as well as the general point that there is no contradiction between evolutionary theory and the Torah. I don’t know why some rabbis today (and I think only from some charedi quarters) become defensive when it comes to evolution. Rav Kook was not one to become defensive about evolutionary theory, and that is also consistent Rambam’s philosophy.

    I hadn’t really thought about the Torah leaving itself open to having its divinity challenged were it wrong (or incomplete) concerning its naming of the animals regarding the aspects that disqualify an animal from being kosher. It’s quite a fascinating idea, although there seems to be a fair bit of debate about this, having just done a bit of Googling. See here: http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2011/03/new-discovery-is-more-bad-news-for.html
    Zoology is not an area I have much expertise in, so I’ll leave it to others.

  • TheSadducee says:


    You are correct – Catholics do have a slightly different Decalogue to Jews. Don’t they split up the covet bit into coveting your neighbour’s wife’s ass and your neighbour’s ass?

    As to what Pell himself meant it is hard to determine? – perhaps, he considered that the Decalogue was written by Moses, inspired by the Divinity like other sacred writings?

  • geoff bloch says:

    No, you have missed my point. Christianity venerates the Old Testament and regards it as holy. My focus is not whether there are any differences in the Decalogue. God’s inscription on the tablets (both sets) appears clearly in scripture. Look it up. It is unarguable. Cardinal Pell was clearly ignorant of at least that part of scripture. I found his ignorance astonishing. But I’m much happier to give him credit where it is due, which is why I focused on his views about evolution. G

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Everyone knows that yigdal is just a nice poem about someone’s opinion of what Rambam meant which wasn’t even agreed upon as a basis of belief.

    Seraphya, it’s a formal statement of belief; it’s part of the prayer service in many or most congregations; it is precisely the sort of thing Yaakov didn’t think Jews did. Fine, quibble about whether Rambam’s “principles” have official standing, or whether Yigdal is a precise reflection of them. The fact is that it’s there, in the siddur.

  • Reallity Check says:

    Pell did say that the Ten Commandments were written by man, therefore he ignores the Torah which says they were written by the Hand of G’d. Either he is ignorant or not believing what it says, yet the Torah is part of his bible.

    Regarding evolution, it’s great that the Torah includes big (subjective) reptiles and different species to come, but what does it say about the evolution of humans. Pell said that we evolved from neanderthals, whereas, as Richard Dawkins pointered out, they were our cousins who have become extinct.

    Geoff, David, what does the Torah say about the eve
    Union of man?

    And Geoff, I would have spelled author with a capital A.

  • Reallity Check says:

    Damn auto spell check: evolution, not eve Union.

  • Reallity Check says:

    Also, in a book on the anthropic principle, by world renown physicists John Barrow and Frank Tipler, which has it, in different degrees, that the laws of nature are geared for the purpose of the evolution of man, they say that Maimonides, when the paradigm was that everything was created for the purpose of benefit of man, argued that that was not the case, since lions, for example, kill people they had no benefit to man.

    Of course, as Dawkins pointed out the question of purpose makes no sense in science and since biology and evolution are scientific enderours, make no sense there either. The roll of science is not to explain nature; the roll of science is to describe nature.

  • ariel says:

    In this week’s AJN there are numerous letters on this subject.

    It seems that frosh’s sentiments in his article are echoed by everyone who has actually seen the episode and understands that Cardinal Pell is not the best articulator and was flustered on live tv.

    Those who continue to malign him probably never saw the episode.

    I agree with frosh on one more thing: Daniel Levy, you certainly share with Dawkins a complete lack of understanding (let alone knowledge) of the religion(s) you demonise.

    Anyone who saw the most recent episode of QandA would have witnessed AC Grayling articulate far better than Dawkins a case for Gdlessness.

    Furthermore, in an interview with the ABC recently, Alain de Botton mentioned aspects of certain religions (including Judaism) which he greatly admires. It seems most Jews (yes, even us fanatical, backward, Orthodox) share the same values as de Botton and Grayling. We just disagree on the source of these values.

  • Mel D says:

    Three comments:

    Firstly, I think that if everyone calmed down a little and tried to speak respectfully to one another and regard each other as beings who should be respected, regardless of belief (in G-d or in the absence of G-d), then perhaps the world would be a nicer place to live in.

    Secondly, the discussion about whether Cardinal Pell got his facts right about the giving of the Torah in view of Jewish tradition is irrelevant. He belongs to a different religion and has a right to believe whatever he understands to be the truth.

    Thirdly, Cardinal Pell wrote a letter apologising and saying he did not mean it in the way some have taken it. Perhaps we should take him at his word. Not all non-Jewish religious people (not even all Catholics! =P) hate Jews.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    I don’t need knowledge of specific religions to dismiss them and appropriately label them as damaging to society.

    Religion makes people entirely unaccountable to their peers, and only the imaginary voice in their head. That is very dangerous, and human history has shown its disastrous effects. Mocking people for their ridiculous beliefs holds people accountable to their peers in a way they had never considered important before.

    When you take things on faith, you are admitting intellectual bankruptcy, and that ought to be shamed if society is to move forward.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    This was directed to ariel, by the way, if mods could just delete this comment and append “Ariel, ” to the start of my previous comment.

  • ariel says:

    You’ve just proven my point. Thanks.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Ariel, to borrow a phrase:

    Arguing with you is like playing chess with a pigeon. It doesn’t matter that you don’t understand the rules of the game, you’re still going to knock over all the pieces, take a crap on the board and strut around like you’re victorious.

    Enjoy your sheer ignorance. You have in fact wasted your entire life on the fairytales of goat herders.

  • abc says:

    Actually Cardinal Pell did not apologise, nor retract. It’s his clever PR machine that made people think he did.

  • Daniel,

    “I don’t need knowledge of specific religions to dismiss them and appropriately label them as damaging to society”. Glad to see you are comfortable dismissing all religion from a position of proud ignorance. Quite ironic as followers of religion have also been accused of ignorance.

  • ariel says:

    Thank you David W.
    Daniel just continues to prove my point every time he types something.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    David Werdiger, do you need to know every aspect of leprechaun mythology to be able to dismiss their existence out of hand?

    Do you require a thorough reading of the Lord of the Rings trilogy to dismiss it as mere fantasy?

    That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

  • TheSadducee says:

    David W/Ariel

    Don’t waste your time – this is a guy that suggested that humanity could be immortal nowadays if it wasn’t for religion…

  • Daniel Levy says:

    TheSadducee, ageing is just a series of chemical reactions. A very very complicated series of chemical reactions, mind you, but if we had had 2000 years to investigate them instead of wasting them on the superstition of religion, I’m quite certain we would have unlocked the reversal of those reactions by now.

    Sadly, for most of the last two millennia, religion ruined it for everybody by killing anyone who dared to investigate scientific theories that invalidated their book of short stories.

  • Daniel – what you say makes perfect sense. After all, the leprechauns were not burdened by religion and they discovered the secret to immortality, so why can’t we?

  • TheSadducee says:

    Yes Daniel, I must have missed the history of Darwin’s burning at the stake by religious people…

  • Daniel Levy says:

    TheSadducee you laugh and joke about it, but millions of people did die at the stake, or by stoning, or whatever instrument the disgusting people of the time could find. I don’t find that funny. Do you find it funny that countless people died in excruciating agony simply for voicing an alternate belief? So some putz named “TheSadducee” can trivialise it hundreds of years later?

    Only now, only after we (rational people) dragged you religious nutjobs kicking and screaming into the enlightenment can we finally criticise religion and not die for it. Only now have we made you accountable to your peers, and not to your imaginary friend (who coincidentally ends up hating and liking all the same people you do ;))

    Just remember that history will view you as delusional fools. Because that’s precisely what you are. You have zero evidence for any of the stupid shit you believe, and yet you believe it without question. People like you are living proof that we descended from a common ancestor to apes.

  • TheSadducee says:

    I’m keen to see you name 10 people over the last 2,000 years who have died at the hands of religious people for the sake of scientific investigation.

  • Sam says:


    I think that the burning question here is not so much if we should believe in religion and also “indoctrinate” our children in this stupid mythology, but rather if scientists should have been allowed to discover the secrets of immortality, by the religious nuts, (who were clearly in charge of everything). Would you would have been considered by anyone other than yourself, worthy of being saved?
    That is TWO far more important questions in my book!

  • TheSadducee says:

    To be honest Daniel, the problem you have is that you overplay your hand.

    You have a strong hand to play, but then you throw it all away with your gauche and exaggerated claims and swinish offensiveness.

    If you were a little more considerate and thoughtful you might actually make others here take you a little more seriously.

    Also, btw, I note that you started to shift the ground from persecuted scientists to general religious persecution with a dash of moralising thrown in for good measure – and I haven’t even yet made reference to the crimes of science to show that the “rational people” can be pretty unpleasant as well when given the chance.

  • TheSadducee says:


    When was the last time that religious nuts were in charge of everything in western society?

  • Reality Check says:

    Sounds like great fun; the exchanges you guys are having about science and religion, but keep in mind, religion is a matter of faith; the Almight’s revelation at Mt. Sinai was a long time ago and although we believe the event to have occurred, we can’t prove it. Science’s, however, one roll is to describe nature.

  • ariel says:

    This argument is so not necessary. Science and faith are two halves of the same human brain and they work well together when all the disrespect and closed mindedness is left behind.

    Maths is the language Gd speaks in the olam hagashmi and the laws of physics/chemistry/..etc are Gd’s methods of implementation.

    Scientific inquiry is human being’s method of trying to figure out how G-d makes it work.

    For more reading, see The Great Partership by Rabbi Lord Dr Jonathan Sacks.

  • Reality Check says:

    Sorry Ariel, but G’d doesn’t figure in the scientific enterprise, although He did some time ago. But if it makes you happy to continue to think in the ways of the monks of old, go right ahead.

  • ariel says:

    Reality Check,

    As it happens I am an Orthodox Jew and an engineer. Many rabbis of past and present are scientists.

    If you think these rabbis are “monks of old” then like others on this post, you lack any will to actually read about the Great Partership that exists…perhaps for fear that Rabbi Sacks may be right??

  • Reality Check says:

    And I so happen to be an engineer, big deal. So is that family First bloke Fielding who is a climate change denier. Now, again; it is not the purpose of science to test,or describe the Almighty. Purpose in science makes no sense, and although I think G’d is more of a statistician, He has many lauguages in which He is totally fluent. But you being frum and an engineer, or rabbis being scientists adds nothing to your argument. If rabbis who happen to be scientists are examining purpose in the laws of nature, as did the monks of old, then they are not scientists.
    PS. Ariel, from where did you qualify?

  • ariel says:

    Your penultimate sentence is yet another strawman.
    Google Rabbi Dr Avraham Steinberg for one…

    Re your final sentence, I’ll give you the answer you’re dying to hear: “I graduated in engineering from a yeshiva in meah shearim…the rabbis of the talmud had far more scientific and engineering knowledge than anyone today…so why go to a treifene university, where i may corrupt my morals and learn something which may or may not be outside my comfort zone?”

  • Reallity Check says:

    Ariel,there you go!

  • Reality Check says:

    Furthermore Ariel, I don’t believe there are too many rabbis employed by Nasa or at the large hadron collider, while there wouldn’t too many nuclear physicists working at a yeshiva advising on the talmud.

  • TheSadducee says:


    I noticed that you haven’t taken up my request to name 10 people in 2000 years – an average of 1 every 200 years, so I’ll make it easier.

    How about naming 5 people who have been murdered in the last 2000 by religious people for the sake of scientific investigation?

    That’s an average of 1 every 400 years.

    Considering your strong claim that religious people retarded scientific development by persecution of rational people, surely you can come up with 5 verifiable examples?

  • Maybe 4? 3? If he can name 1, the city of Sodom will be spared!

  • ariel says:

    Reality check, I think the point has been lost somewhere in space…

    The point is not that there are rabbis working at NASA or on the hadron collider, but that they are marvelled by these activities and hold them to be part of Judaism’s relentless pursuit of G-d’s Truth.

  • TheSadducee says:


    I would suggest that folks like Daniel et al learn that in the (alleged) dark ages of religious persecution of scientists that some rabbis were actually heavily involved in scientific research*.

    Science in Context (1997), 10 : pp 571-588, Fishman, “Rabbi Moshe Isserles and the Study of Science Among Polish Rabbis”

    *I have not yet found evidence to suggest that these people killed themselves or were killed by other religious people to prevent their scientific research.

  • Reality Check says:

    By all means Ariel, let the rabbis persue G’d’s truth, but they won’t get any answers in their persuit of science.

  • ariel says:

    Reality check, it seems we have different definitions/understandings of Gd and Judaism (I say Judaism specifically as I am not familiar with the goings on of other clergy).
    I suspect no answer will satisfy you as you seem contented to raise straw men and to knock them down.

  • ariel says:

    Reality check, it seems we have different definitions/understandings of Gd and Judaism (I say Judaism specifically as I am not familiar with the goings on of other clergy).
    I suspect no answer will satisfy you as you seem content to raise straw men and to knock them down.

  • Reality Check says:

    You don’t have to say it twice, Ariel, you’ve made your point. I don’t have a problem with the Almighty creating all the laws of nature at the time of the big bang, but it’s something that can’t be tested, and there are an enormous number of examples of discussions in the Talmud which amazingly enough, are consistent with the laws of nature, but you still can’t plug the Almighty into the equations that describe nature.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    My dearest “TheSadducee”. I really didn’t have much time this week to compile a long list of the names you required. I see you lack the ability to educate yourself. I now have some time to do this. You wanted 10?


    Those are 2 rather famous ones.

    Here’s another 10 just from abortion doctor killings


    You want more? Or would you like to go and educate yourself?

    I love how you strutted around thinking you’d won or something stupid like that just because I didn’t reply until the weekend.

    You sort of hang yourself (pardon the pun) with this sentence:

    “Considering your strong claim that religious people retarded scientific development by persecution of rational people”

    It’s not a claim, it’s a fact. From the wiki page on religious persecution:

    “Atheism was punishable by death in ancient Greece, in ancient Israel,[23] in Christian countries during the Middle Ages and in Muslim countries. Today, Atheism is a crime in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia,[24] Pakistan and some other Muslim countries.”

    Rational people WERE executed for being rational. And still are in some dark parts of the world, sadly :(

    That’s why we had 2000 years of stagnation before rationalists finally threw a spanner into the religious framework and got society moving again.

  • TheSadducee says:


    I’d humbly recommend that you go back and do a little more research than that presented by Wiki if you want to be taken seriously.

    In short, Bruno was executed not because of his scientific research but because of his religious beliefs (he was not an atheist either but a pantheist). Even the Vatican has admitted that (and an organ of their Church was involved in his trial).

    Hypatia was murdered, again not because of her scientific research (or atheism for that matter because she was a pagan philosopher) but for social and religious reasons by religious fanatics who were considered outside of the mainstream in their own time.

    Murder of abortion doctors is not being killed for scientific research or development purposes and religious resistance to those factors. They are murdered as a reaction to their activity by religious extremists who are well outside of the mainstream of any religious group. Unless of course that you are suggesting that abortion is scientific development?

    I still wait for you to come up with even 5 instances of what you claim is a fact.

    Incidentally, I would suggest that you consider that atheism does not necessarily equate to science, development or civilised conduct.

    Incidentally, rational people were not killed for being rational, but rather for being different to the majority – which is reprehensible.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    I don’t even need to have a semantics war with you over the wikipedia articles I listed, or whether doctors are scientists (they are, Medicine is a science and so its practitioners scientists).

    This is neither here nor there. You give the game away in your last sentence:

    “Incidentally, rational people were not killed for being rational, but rather for being different to the majority – which is reprehensible.”

    I’m glad that you acknowledge two things. One, that such killings are reprehensible, and two, that rationality is so at odds with religious belief, that the majority (who held those religious beliefs) were moved to kill them.

  • TheSadducee says:


    Thank you for not engaging in a semantics war over the Wiki articles – if your study of history is from Wiki then it is best that you let the issue drop before you make a fool of yourself (or rather more of a fool of yourself).

    As to the rest – I don’t see that religion is necessarily antithetical to reason, nor do I see that you have demonstrated this point at all or have I myself inadvertently.

    Ironically, I don’t think you and I are too far apart in our views, despite your assumptions – my objection is to the way that you present them – bombastically and with little supporting evidence and/or facts.

    For example, there are very few cases of scientists being killed for virtue of them being scientists by religious people and/or fanatics, but religious groups have certainly impeded scientific development through a number of demonstrable ways –
    boycotts of vaccination programs eg. Polio in Nigeria,
    teaching of anti-scientific material eg. Intelligent Design in US State schools,
    prohibition of reading materials of scientific value eg. Kepler being on the Catholic Index,
    religious bans on conducting certain activities eg. Stem-Cell Research from foetuses.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    TheSadducee, I wasn’t arguing that religion has impeded science only through the killing of scientists and rational people. You made that assumption. I’ve only stuck hard on this point because you actually started joking about the fact that rationalists were persecuted and killed by the church. By the way, when you state:

    “I would suggest that you consider that atheism does not necessarily equate to science, development or civilised conduct.”

    No, but what I would suggest is that science most involves being a rationalist, at least in large part. And if you are persecuting and killing rationalists, you are by necessity killing potential scientists or people who were already studying science in secret.

    If they were found out, they were called heretics and forced either to repent and recant their life’s work, or they were promptly tortured and put to death. And do you think for these lynch mobs that exact records were kept? And that they studied his works to see what he was studying? Hell no, burnt to the ground. But it is extremely well documented that thousands of heretics were killed in the name of religion over the years.

    This feeds a culture where rationality is necessarily at odds with religion, as you stated. The killing of heretics forces those would-be scientists contemplating a thorough investigation of the truth to just shut up and not go against the will of the community. They never got their chance because they were too afraid to go against groupspeak, even if they privately held their views and desires to investigate the truth.

    But as I will now establish, you don’t even have to kill a single scientist to quell science. You miss, in your list, the most important way they have impeded science of all (though you do provided an example of one of its effects). By indoctrinating children from an early age not to ask the most important questions (e.g. Thunder was god’s anger. Rain was god’s tears), you completely blunt a kid’s ability to investigate the truth. And that certainly translates to adulthood.

    Which brings us to the example that you did list. That’s why you get so many people in America believing in creation over evolution. Because all they’ve been taught is creation myth, and they fear questioning it in case it goes against the group. And in some people, the effect is so profound, that they dedicate their lives to fighting one of the most well-established scientific theories we have.

    The fact is, no scientist ever had to be killed for religion to impede science, they simply had to create an anti-rationality culture, which they most certainly did, and it still pervades to this day, and is easily one of the greatest threats to society that religion poses. Thankfully, less so now that we’re starting to cut the limbs off of the beast. But the faster we hack the beast to pieces, the faster we’ll advance, and the sooner humanity can truly be proud of its civilisations.

  • Marky says:

    Daniel, on other Galus forums you rave on about all the millions of people killed because of religion. Here you go on about persecution of scientists and stalling of science by religion. The former was done to us not by us and i have never heard of judaic persecution of scientists. In fact our Rabbis always studied sciences to see how it fits into halacha. It always went hand in hand.

    So why on earth are you bringing all these things to a Jewish orthodox blog?

  • Daniel Levy says:

    A few rabbis here and there, but most dedicated their lives to the fairytales. And as I elucidated above, the god delusion dulls the inquisitive senses of most.

    I’m not going to pretend that Judaism is the worst offender of all the monotheistic religions, but it is certainly part of an insidious problem that I feel passionately about. It’s a good question though, why on this blog?

    Have you ever considered that this is not the only forum in which I debate these things? I also debate with Christians, Muslims, Hindus elsewhere. I think it’s an important discussion to have everywhere until humanity is free of the shackles of superstition and irrationality.

  • Reality Check says:

    Marky, I had no idea that this was a “Jewish orthodox blog”?

  • TheSadducee says:


    Not to benefit Daniel (other than to educate him) but we (Jews) did have a run in with Spinoza over his scientific/philosophical views back in the 17th C – he pops to mind straight away.

    I’ll try to think of a few others if you are interested, but on the whole we Jews have been fairly benevolent with regards to treatment of scientists/philosophers in our community in history.

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